Motivation seems to be the biggest challenge for the Houston Rockets but with their title credentials reinforced after a fine start to the NBA season, can they carry it onwards through to next summer?
Slated at 15.00 to win the championship, Houston is off to an 8-1 start and they’ll look to make it 6-0 on the road tonight with a trip to the struggling Oklahoma City Thunder.
So far, the Rockets only loss has come against the Golden State Warriors, but other than San Antonio, none of their other opponents to date has been stellar.
And on Thursday, we saw a little bit of the mental frailty that dogged them last term when it needed a late turnover and a James Harden score to avoid becoming the horrible Philadelphia 76ers first scalp in a 88-87 cliffhanger.
If Houston needed a wake-up call, then there it was. Yet it illustrated that even on nights when their offense mis-cues, their defence will keep them in the hunt this year.
They’re giving up only 91.6 points per night, second to Memphis, and while their scoring output has dropped to 101.6, six off last season, some of that can be attributed to Harden’s nightmare shooting start with the All Star making only 39% so far from the field.
That, you’d think, can only rise and his team remain good value at 3.50 in the Southwest Division with little to separate them from the Spurs.
Oklahoma City, with a 3-7 record to date, will find it tough to contain all of the Rockets weapons in the continued absence of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, with their average scoring just 92.0 per game.
And even with the Thunder at 2.55 for the win, there’s no reason to think Houston won’t blast back and prove the Sixers squeaker was just an aberration.
Best bet: Take Houston at -10.5 on the handicap over Oklahoma City.